Veitch pleads guilty and jumps on the front foot

Embattled sports presenter and journalist Tony Veitch has taken a guilty plea in the Auckland District Court today and immediately leapt onto the front foot to vow revenge on media outlets who, he says, went too far in their coverage of his case. [NZ Herald]

Veitch pleaded guilty to one charge of reckless disregard causing industry and, in what seems to be a classic bargaining maneuver six other charges were dropped by the prosecution.

It’s likely that his sentence of 300 hours community service and a $10,000 fine will seem like a let-off to some, particularly given Veitch’s profile and the debate about community standards and role models that has accompanied this story for the past nine months. Ethical Martini’s coverage is archived here.

Now phase 2 begins-the legal battle over who said what to whom, when, where, how and why. You can’t hide from the 5 Ws and the H.

According to the trial judge, Veitch was the author of his own misfortune:

Judge Doogue noted the impact the publicity had had on Veitch.

“Those who live in the public eye suffer inevitable additional exposure when they fall from grace,” Judge Doogue said.

“You have perpetrated an act of violence on an innocent party and you are the author of your own misfortune in all of this.” [Stuff.co.nz]

But maybe he doesn’t quite see it that way. In a statement to the media as he left court today Veitch promised to sue media outlets who got the story wrong.

It’s an interesting statement and one that will no doubt get a good “going over” from that very same media. In the spirit of friendly cooperation and rivalry, let me be among the first to give this forensic dissection ago.

  • When did TVNZ know about the matter?

Veitch: When it was necessary, I also told my employers at TVNZ and I re-iterate, I told them the full and utter truth.

We still don’t know when exactly this was. It seems it might have been after the initial story broke in the Dominion Post, or it could have been earlier. This remains an issue for some because the timing of the telling would indicate whether or not both TVNZ and Radio Sport kept Veitch on air despite knowing what he’d done. For others it’s a case of “Does it really matter?”

  • Was Tony being blackmailed?

Veitch: Until now because of severe legal constraints and the agreement I signed, I’ve been unable to say anything to anybody, let alone defend myself. From today, that will stop…I also believe that if I didn’t pay the $150,000, our wedding day would have been at considerable risk.

What was that risk? We have heard about a series of letters exchanged between a person or persons perhaps unknown and the family of Veitch’s current wife. However, this question-which I think is one of the most significant yet to be answered-is not being addressed.

  • Who’s in Tony’s sights?

Veitch: There is one final point I would like to make, much has been written and said over the past nine months that defies belief. As a journalist, I am at a loss as to how to understand how certain media organisations could run with stories on the basis of a source and without fact.

From today we will begin legal action against them in the hope that they realise that it is one thing to condemn a person by the media, it is another to slander them.

I have always maintained that there has been some dodgy journalism in this case, from the beginning. The initial Dominion Post story, obviously based on leaked documents, did not contain any named sources for quotes and allegations against Veitch. It looked like a deliberate plant (see blackmail question). But, I do not think that the Veitch camp is all innocence and doe-eyed on this either. In the last few months there have been some stories in the Sunday papers that have also been IMHO deliberate PR plants to rehabilitate the Veitch brand.

And it paid off. Veitch was named TV Guide sports presenter of the year a few weeks ago and now he’s a free man, able to resume his career and, to some extent, feed off the noteriety of this case. The only bad publicity, it seems, is no publicity.

Kristin Dunne-Powell’s victim impact statement was also released to the media today. in part it details her ongoing distress and the harassment she feel’s she and her family have been subjected to from the media:

My family and I have been harassed and hunted by some journalists. On a weekly basis my private and personal life has been turned upside down. I have experienced an enormous amount of stress due to relentless media and public interest in what happened and this caused my family and I anguish.

At times it felt there has been no end to the spreading of malicious lies, rumour and falsehoods.

These falsehoods have caused me reputational damage and have often times humiliated me.

This situation has made it difficult for me to regain employment. The falsehoods have also left me at the judgment of New Zealanders, and the subject of radio and internet discussion and gossip which has been very distressing.

Indeed, it has been distressing. Now maybe a few editors will have sleepless nights too, worrying about the letter from Tony’s lawyers sitting in their in-tray. Along the way I wonder if Ms Dunne-Powell might also be asked a few questions by lawyers and by the media, particularly about how the story broke in the Dominion Post when there was a confidentiality agreement in place between the parties who knew about it.

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